Wednesday, August 1, 2012

A Small Spectacular: Bartolo di Fredi and Other Sienese Artists at the Museum of Biblical Art. Exclusive Photos Here, Article at

Franceso di Vannuccio, Crucifix ca. 1370

It's the must-see yet unsung show of the summer -- a tightly focused exhibit of 14th-century Sienese altarpieces -- and it's at one of Manhattan's under-visited jewel-box spaces, the Museum of Biblical Art on Broadway near Lincoln Center.

Naddo Ceccarelli, Madonna and Child with Saints, mid-14th c.
The exhibit, with only seven works, is stunning in its simplicity and beautifully conceived, and it shows off one of this museum's strengths -- displaying art that is either new to the viewer or placed in a context that makes it seem new.

For this show, the museum is emphasizing an uninterrupted viewing experience.  "We didn't want a lot of text on the wall where people are reading instead of looking," said acting executive director Patricia Pongracz, so MOBIA, as the museum is known, provides a free take-it-home handout that identifies the figures in each work and includes the religious text it is based on.

Bartolo di Fredi, Adoration of the Magi, ca 1385, detail
Bartolo's altarpiece demonstrates something that is often overlooked in narrative religious imagery -- telling a story to people who don't know how to read.  The artist, for the first time, depicted with the Adoration four narratives of the kings' journey across the upper part of the painting.

Installation view
MOBIA, which opened in 2005, has a steady trickle of only 15,000 to 17,000 visitors a year. 

Become one of them.  The exhibition is free. 

Read more about the difficult-to-obtain loan from Siena -- which involves antiquities smuggling -- and about the exhibition and museum in my article in today's New York Observer, here.

Bartolo, Adoration of the Magi, detail of Siena's cathedral behind medieval walls

Bartolo, Adoration of Magi, detail of kings and Joseph

Bartolo, Adoration of the Magi, from the Pinacoteca Nazional, Siena

Ceccarelli, Madonna and Child with Saints, detail
"Bartolo di Fredi, The Adoration of the Magi: A Masterpiece Reconstructed," Museum of Biblical Art, Broadway at 61st Street, through September 9

Text and photos (c) Copyright 2012 Laura Gilbert